Friday, April 29, 2011

GANESHA


My father. Auspicious, kind, gracious. Eternally pure. He does not have an elephant’s head and yet some say we look alike; the same confidence in our stride, I think. I was made from nothing; from the absolute emptiness that comes in between words and the beating of one’s heart. My conception nothing more than an idea arising in my mother’s mind. The mother goddess. The embodiment of the total energy of the universe and yet I had to come along to make sure she was protected while she bathed. Was there no one to hire for such services? Imagine, coming into this world. So much color and beauty, yes much sadness too, but there were mangoes to eat and sweet rice that could stick to the roof of my mouth, and  there were rivers to swim in. And what do I find out is my purpose after all? What do I get to do? Guard the door while I bathe, Ganesha, make sure no one comes inside. Ganesha, you cannot fall asleep, someone will come inside while I bathe. Why can’t you just do what I ask of you? Many say I was enthusiastic about such a role, because that is what my mother insisted on telling people. But the truth is I wanted a life of my own, more of a purpose than making sure no one disturbed my mother while her fingers pruned and her naked body soaked in the tub. I wanted to swim with a mouth full of mangoes and sticky rice. Father was away at war or some battle. If you ask me though he was probably getting high and fooling around with that dark skinned woman with the long tongue I always heard my mother ranting about. Kali this and Kali that. Kali the almighty warrior. Kali who is black, who is time, who is death, who can outdance us all. How could I have known what my father looked like then, if the only thing in this life I had seen was my mother reaching for her towel and the view of the mountains from the doorway to the bathhouse? No one had even tried to disturb my mother since I had come to life, and when my father came finally and when he tried to make his way through, I felt oddly excited and protective. This was my sole duty in life and there standing face to face with my father, although unknown to me, was my greatest test of all. Let me in, let me in, he demanded. No one goes in unless she approves, I said firmly. I stretched my hand out a bit preventing him from moving any further. And I wonder, thinking now about this, when I had my old head- the one I was born with, the one that somehow also came from a part of him that was busy flying around in the universe, if he looked in my eyes then and could see himself. One swing to the throat, and my head rolled onto the ground. For a few minutes my mind still worked, and I could understand what was happening around me. Mother storming out from the bath, her towel wrapped around her naked body. Water dripping into my eyes from the edge of her towel blurred my vision. She saw my head and shrieked. What have you done! What have you done! Our son’s head is on the floor! And father, well father did not want to disappoint his goddess. I could hear him explaining himself as I watched in the blurriness the metal bracelets on my mother’s ankles make a noise like a song. No god wants to disappoint his goddess. An agreement was made. The first animal my father saw would replace my head. And what am I thinking then? That eyes would soon shut and my body would have a new head, and I wondered would it still be me? I prayed for a clean and wise animal- with much aspirations and desire in this life to be something more than a doorman. An elephant walked past us then. An elephant. A magnificent creature if I have ever seen one. Its head was cut in a flash and merged together with my body. My old eyes shut as my new ones opened. And yes, still it was me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two Moments and a Question

1. In my backyard there's a Hindu Temple. It's not really in my backyard but a fifteen minute drive from my parents' house through the canyons of Calabasas there's a Hindu temple. My dad and I drove up to it on Saturday and when we got out of the car it felt like we had made it to India. People bring jugs and jugs of milk, bananas, apples, to offer to Lord Shiva every Saturday. Milk is poured onto the statue of Shiva, thirty minutes worth of milk. Everyone's chanting, the only words I know are "om, shanti, shanti" so I say them loudly to make up for all the other words I don't know. I lift my hand in the air when the others do and grab the incense smoke and bring it towards my third eye. I put my dollar in the donation plate and drink the sacrificial milk they spoon into the palm of my hand. On the ride home my dad says, "That was a waste of milk, there are so many poor people in India who would love to drink that milk." Later that day my stomach hurts and I think it may have been the milk. 

2. That night sitting on the patio of a restaurant bar in Venice with friends I haven't seen in a while. A few drunk men ask if they can put their beers down on our table. "It'll cost you $5," I say as a joke. They're young in an obnoxious way and one of them who looks like he has two black eyes or maybe just hasn't slept in a while, takes out a 5 dollar bill and throws it on the table. I explain it was a joke but my friend takes the money and they decide it's OK to join us and offer us some beers so we won't say anything. My friend makes a joke about him having to pay to talk with her. He takes a dollar out and throws it on the candle burning in the middle of our table. I try and rescue the dollar from the flame and blow it out but half of it's already gone. I ask him why, and he can't seem to think of a good reason or any reason at all.

Question: Was putting my dollar in that donation tray the same as my black-eyed friend burning his?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Movie Of The Week: The Fall Will Lift You Up


I love movies. My family didn't have money to go on luxury vacations to foreign lands when I was growing up, so the theater became our escape. We'd sneak our cheap, market bought candy inside, and laugh and cry and twist and turn in our seats, and when it was all over we felt that something had happened.

That's why when a movie comes along like The Fall, I want everyone to know about it. It's a 2006 film directed by the award-winning music video, commercial and film director Tarsem Singh, the genius also behind The Cell. It's a visually stunning film that weaves reality with the fantastical world of one man's imagination. Roy (Lee Pace), an injured and bed-ridden stunt man befriends five year old fellow hospital patient Alexandria (Catinca Uncaru) and begins to improvise an "epic tale of love and revenge" with The Indian, The Ex-Slave, The Explosive Expert, Charles Darwin and The Masked Bandit and their enemy Governor Odeus as the central figures. Roy uses his story in order to persuade Alexandria to bring him the pills that will end his life. The Fall will surprise you and stun you in all the right places and will remind you what movie magic and epic storytelling are really all about.

The Fall is available on DVD.

Holy Holi

Holi is the festival of color celebrated in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka on the last full moon in March. Winter's gone and spring means color, lots of it. In some cities women beat men up with sticks as those in the crowd sing Holi songs and shout Krishna, the ultimate prankster's name, in others the festival lasts for sixteen days, but for the most part this time is considered to be the happiest and colorful day of the year. When else can the elite, shop owners, and beggars come together for some hard core dye-throwing action? It reminds me a little of New Year in Thailand- everyone excited to dunk each other in water. There's a sense of playfulness and revelry that's rare, and when we let our inhibitions go for just a moment we realize how connected we really are to each other. Even though you want to get mad because some stranger has just dunked a bucket of ice cold water on your head while you were walking to the pharmacy because of the fever you've caught from being wet for two days straight, you just can't. I imagine it's the same with Holi; it's not the most comfortable feeling, but it's a risk everyone's willing to take for such a moment of pure beauty and joy. Maybe all of life should be this full of color.





Photos taken from:
http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/03/holi-the-festival-of-colors-2011/100032/

Persian Food At Its Best (and it's not in LA?)


I come from a land where the scent of kabob fills the air- Los Angeles. It’s the mecca of Persian food outside of Iran and with so many places to choose from, including my mother’s house, it’s difficult for things to go wrong. When I moved to San Francisco, seeing that my cooking skills were not as up to par as my mother’s, I was on a mission to find the best place to eat Persian food. Sadly, it’s been a difficult journey filled with stuck-up waiters, bland and overpriced food, and a lack of that homey feeling I so much associate with Persian food. With every journey though, there are moments of pure triumph and this moment happened for me when I stepped into Lavash, a Persian restaurant in the Inner-Sunset.

The space is quite small, but the d├ęcor and lighting and genuine hospitality of the owner and wait staff made me feel right at home. Lavash isn’t trying too hard, allowing customers to have a comfortable fine-dining experience. I went with a large group of people and the wait staff was quite accommodating. My group, knowing my expertise in such matters, allowed me to order for everyone. Start your night off right with their Yogurt Salad- a mix of yogurt, cucumber, and spices- it sounds simple but it will blow you away. The Kashk-eh-Bademjan is also a great starter- seasoned roasted eggplant topped with roasted garlic, mint flakes and saffron. Moving on to the main course the kabob is a must, a Soltani combination will allow you to experience both the koobideh (ground beef) kabob as well as the barg (sliced beef fillet). Also, Lavash had my favorite dish at its best- Zereshk Polo. It’s a rice dish with barberries, raisins and sauteed onions served with chicken spiced with cumin, turmeric, and saffron. Each spoonful sent me right into my mother’s kitchen. Wash everything down with a glass of aromatic Persian tea and you’ll be raving for weeks about one of the greatest dining experiences in San Francisco.

Lavash
511 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA 94122-2513
(415) 664-5555 
http://www.lavashsf.com/